Law Enforcement Bureau
Commission's Law Enforcement Bureau (LEB) enforces the NYC Human
Rights Law. LEB is responsible for the intake, investigation, and
prosecution of complaints alleging violations of the Law.
The number of new cases the Commission filed in 2004 rose to 450,
a notable increase from the previous year, bringing the total case
inventory to 554. In addition, the Commission successfully resolved
159 allegations of discrimination through pre-complaint intervention.
Pre-complaint intervention assures a speedy resolution without the
necessity of filing a complaint, avoiding costly and lengthy litigation.
An example of a pre-complaint intervention involved several disabled
tenants and one disabled visitor who were trapped in their Harlem
building for months as the result of a broken elevator. Once the
Commission was made aware of their situation, LEB placed one call
to the building owner instructing the owner to repair the elevator
or face prosecution under the New York City Human Rights Law. The
elevator was repaired the next day, bringing needed relief to the
In another early intervention, a prospective buyer of an Upper West
Side co-op contacted the Commission after the interview with the
co-op board was abruptly cancelled when the board was made aware
that the prospective buyer used a wheelchair. LEB immediately intervened
explaining to the co-op board that their conduct was discriminatory
and unlawful under the City's Human Rights Law. Within a week of
the Commission's phone call, the interview was rescheduled and the
co-op board approved the sale of the apartment.
In addition to the 159 allegations resolved through pre-complaint
intervention, the Commission resolved 481 cases in 2004. The Commission's
two-pronged approach of an intensive initial interview of the complainant
with an immediate investigation of the facts alleged provides investigators
with a greater ability to gather evidence, identify witnesses, and
build the strongest case. This successful approach is responsible
for a significant increase in Probable Cause findings and Settlements.
Currently, over 75% of the Commission's case inventory is under
one year old as compared to 14% at the beginning of this administration.
At the start of 2002, there were 1,500 cases at the Commission that
were seven years or older. That number dropped dramatically to 255
by the end of 2002 and declined again to 44 cases by the end of
2003. At the end of 2004, there were 8 cases remaining that were
seven years or older. The overall reduction in cases since 2002
has given investigators the ability to focus on current cases and
not be burdened with overwhelming caseloads.
In 2004, the Commission issued a landmark ruling in the area of
religious discrimination. The Commission ordered the New York City
Police Department to allow a Sikh Traffic Enforcement Agent to wear
his turban while on duty in uniform. It was the first such order
in the nation requiring a law enforcement agency to accommodate
an officer’s religious beliefs by modifying its uniform requirements.
In 2004, the Commission assessed and collected fines totaling $88,000.
Of that amount, $50,000 in fines came from Commission-initiated
complaints through its proactive undercover testing. Although fines
had been assessed prior to 2002, they were never collected.
The Commission's One-Year Policy for resolving new cases, initiated
during the Commissioner's first year, continues to ensure New Yorkers
a timely resolution to their complaints and has prevented a return
to the serious backlog of cases that existed at the Commission prior
to this administration.
The Commission has the authority to obtain cash settlements for
those aggrieved by violations of the Human Rights Law. In 2004,
the dollar value of those settlements totaled $941,782 for an average
cash settlement of $11,346. Additional settlements and provisions
successfully negotiated by the Commission included rehirings, policy
changes and modifications for accessibility.
The 2004 Determinations and Resolutions chart illustrates the significant
increase of Probable Cause findings and the number of cases Settled.
Since 2002, Probable Cause determinations have risen 500 percent and
Settlements have risen over 300 percent.
Many of New York's buildings, stores and other public accommodations
are not accessible to people with disabilities. The Commission's
Project Equal Access continues to provide disability access assistance
and education to senior citizens and the disabled community. As
a result of its aggressive efforts in 2004, the Commission successfully
negotiated 150 modifications for individuals with disabilities,
more than double the amount in 2002. Nearly 100 of these modifications
were accomplished through pre-complaint intervention.
Project Equal Access assists the disabled community by identifying
architectural and financial resources that are available, advocating
for the disabled when dealing with landlords and/or service providers,
and assisting with legal actions if intervention fails. Community
Relations staff members, trained in conducting investigations at
various sites requiring disability access, have coordinated their
efforts with the Law Enforcement Bureau.
Modifications secured through the Commission include: installing
permanent and portable ramps, bell and buzzer systems for entry
to stores, offices, and apartment buildings, making parking spaces
available and permitting guide dogs in public accommodations.
The Law Enforcement Bureau consists of 12 attorneys, 12 Human Rights
Specialists, including two retired NYPD officers and 5 support staff
investigator or attorney conducts the interview and tries to
intervene and resolve the issue before generating a complaint.
of Docketing files and serves the complaint; parties are invited
or attorney interviews witnesses, reviews documents.
cause: assignment to an attorney for prosecution. No probable
cause: case is dismissed, complainant may appeal to the Commissioner.
Law Judge holds a pre-trial conference. If case does not settle,
Administrative Law Judge conducts a hearing and issues a Report
issues a Final Decision and Order. If no liability found: case
dismissed. If liability found: relief ordered.